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Microsoft Launches New Era in MS Search

 10:18 pm on Nov 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Continued From: [webmasterworld.com...]

Wow! Lot’s of excitement. Thanks for all of the feedback. We just want to address a few of the topics that came up.

What is the beta? As WebGuerilla has pointed out the beta is an evolution of our Technology Preview. As you can tell we made major enhancements to the user interface and added a bunch of new features. We still have work to do, however, to get [search.msn.com...] to be able to use our new algorithmic search results that are available at [beta.search.msn.com...] .

How does one get into the results? All of our web results are generated algorithmically so you cannot buy your way into the index. We will not try and teach site optimization to you guys – assume you have that covered :) If you want to submit your URL to us you can do that at [beta.search.msn.com...] .

Also regarding relevance, there has been some speculation on some online forums about MSNBot using Google search result pages to build our index. Let us set the record straight – that is simply not true. We respect robots.txt and as a result we will not crawl Google’s search result pages.

With regards to site availability that is something we are continuously working on. Oshoma Momoh, a General Manager in the MSN Search team, posted a blurb about this on the MSN Search blog -- [blogs.msdn.com...] .

Finally some folks have asked why we don’t just turn this on for all users right now? We love the words of encouragement, however, we have a number of bugs that we need to fix and we need to make sure that we can run the service with great performance and deliver high quality results. We will get there.

Please keep the feedback and constructive criticism coming – we appreciate all of it.

- msndude (msd)



 6:12 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

It's great to try the beta. However, I have to say its results are junk. I search for some city names in my country, I see rare relevant results in first page result. For one popular destination, the NO 1 result is a blog which mentions that place only once in its body text and has nothing to do with it. That blog has no links linking to it using that destination name as anchor. Regarding to many other search queries I monitor, I have to say, MSN has a long way to go to compete with Google.


 6:55 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

That's less than 2.5 months, so I recommend that everyone spend their full attention coming up to speed on beta.search.msn.com.

It's very rare to get to see a search engine in transition, because that's the best time to see what the different criteria are for ranking.

Do you see their three sliders? They are for "Very popular vs. less popular", "Exact match vs. approximate match", and "static vs. updated recently." It's really cool to play with these sliders. I'm sure that a lot of WebmasterWorld moderators are off tweaking values to get an idea of how things are computed, and what the relative weight are. For example, if you move the slider all the way to very popular and click search again--viagra.com disappears from the first page! That's a little counterintuitive to me, and it makes for some really interesting speculation about what Microsoft means by popular.

Most search engine optimizers will be fascinated by the ability to play with sliders and try to reverse-engineer how Microsoft is ranking. Not since Nutch have people gotten such a good view at the different components in ranking for a major search engine. Because of that and the fact the MSN has promised their new search will go live by January, I'd get busy playing. :)

Here's one other tidbit I came across while reading this morning. Following on Google and Yahoo's launch of blogs, MSN has launched a blog for its search engine as well: [blogs.msdn.com...]
Highly recommended reading--they've got comments enabled, too. I've really enjoyed playing with the new search, and I'd recommend that everyone spend 2-3 days getting familiar with how MSN is ranking pages--I think the effort will pay off.

If found that post very odd. Not becuase of what it says but who says it. Yeah, every SEO wants to figure out a search engine but it seems like we're being encouraged to figure out ranking criteria for a search engine by one of its competitors.

I thought the standard line was: just build websites with good content and get links to it, the rest will take care of itself. Please don't try and game our search engine, but by all means, do go ahead and game other search engines.

Hmmmm... does not seem like his/her usual self or self of old. I guess that is because there are surely more than one of him/her.


 7:49 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

There is an old saying "Don't bite the hand that feeds you". I feel Google has done this over the past year.

Google was made popular by webmasters and the ability to work with Google to not only produce good sites, but good search results. Webmasters typically start your online trends and by monitoring their behaivor, you can find out what is the next big thing to hit. Google has turned their back on us.

The PR games, the inconsistent SERPs, and most importantly, Sandbox, have turned many webmasters anti-Google. Look at all the happy webmasters who have been dying for an inkling of competition to Google today.

But I hope Google continues on their ways and alienates even more webmasters and web savvy users. They can cash in with their poor SERPs which generate more ad revenue and allow any site in the world to run Adsense.

In the end, webmasters will turn to MSN and Yahoo! for optimization. People will catch on to what webmasters do and eventually Google will end up with the Hot Bots, Web Crawlers, and other search engines that once were "the search engine" and are now nothing more than a 3rd tier engine.

Congrats to MSN for the first step in hopefully some much needed competition in the SE world.


 8:24 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google became popular because users liked the results. That should be MSN goal, along with monetizing their serps for when people flock to them. You are just kidding yourself about anything else.

The great news is MSN seems to know its product is not ready for prime time, and are intent on making it so. That would be truly a great thing, and of course many of its current fans will simply hate that since their sludge will be gone then.

Google obviously isn't concerned about the weak beta product, but they surely are concerned about Microsoft taking the time to do their product right rather than rush something so weak onto the market.


 8:44 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

When i write my name into google it find 2 articles with my name. The first 2 results. msn come nowhere near.

Also in the serps domain name seems to be important. Needs a lot of work for relevancy.


 8:47 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

To spammy for my liking. On these beta results in my industry all it takes is to build 20 keyword domains and link them all together at the bottom of the page and 2/3s of them make it on the first page. If that is what MSN is looking for they got it with this algo.


 9:18 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

For our very niche search terms, the SERPS are populated with "traditional" spam ie, create 50 pages all the same but with a change in keyword, all interlinked and bingo, at the top.


 9:26 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Well done Microsoft.

But there are too many spammy sites with cross linking and also domain names with lots of keywords in the url. Have just done a search for a popular keyword and the same company has lots of results in the top 20, all with different url's.

Its a start though and the competition is only good news.


 9:44 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

This is just my impression, but I think Google has taken a very heavy-handed approach to penalization, sandboxing, etc... and slapped around a lot of innocent webmasters. But their SERPs are still slightly more relevant.

To me the difference I see between MSN/Google as of now, is that MSN seems to reward SEO much more. This is very good for white-hatters of course, but there is a lot of black-hat spam in there and it will only get worse. So they'll have to improve on their filters and penalties.

Google on the other hand has been gamed for years and instead of trying to reach out to the webmaster community and be as "fair" as possible, they've been forced to take drastic steps to combat black-hat spam. PR0 bans, sandboxing, etc. In their defense they have not had much choice because their algo was so gamed.

To me, the difference is going to come down to which engine can reward the white hat SEO best while also penalizing the black hat the most, and neither of these engines do that.

Google needs our cooperation, and needs to embrace the white-hatters. They need to put in place a better system for arbitration for banned/penalized websites, even if it's paid. They need a clearer set of dos and don’ts.... and they really need to take a hard look at their penalties and make sure that they aren't penalizing innocent white-hatters... this will also indirectly decrease black-hat spammers since people won't be forced to go that route to make an honest buck.

It will be interesting to see..... as much as I hate M$ I am really rooting MSN to succeed, competition is very healthy.


 9:46 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

i do hope that microsoft sort this out because i'm getting excited about the prospect of another search big gun.


 10:12 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I am surprised at the results. They've improved a lot since the last beta release! Way to go MSN! :)

I did however find several bugs (which I reported) and some junk search results ... also reported.

Things like site maps still come up in searches for maps which happened in the last Beta test and was also reported then.

Some very spammy sites are cluttered at the top of the search results in some (but not all) searches. I also found some completely irrelevant sites listed for searches which had nothing to do with the search. I agree with MSN Dude ... they're not quite ready to roll this out yet, but they are certainly getting close! ;)

The biggest problem I had was (I think) a Mac problem. The top three search results are obscured by a heavy blue background. Also, several times the search results were so far down the page that I had to scroll to find them.

... but overall, I think they are likely to give Google a run for their money. Nice to see some real competition out there!


 10:23 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I had a site that suddenly got indexed really well one day and got a huge amount of traffic from google which used up all my bandwidth. So my host replaced all my pages with a page that said "This customer exceded it's bandwith limit" And in one day that site was completely dropped from the google index.

Come on, that's not Googles fault, but your host's. What he did to you is sabotage to your site. He should have called you before pulling the plug.


 10:38 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google.com is coming up on a lot of searches.

I guess that the habit of linking to Google's search results using the keywords as anchor text is the reason for that.


 10:54 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I for one hope this knocks google out of the water. For my most lucrative keyword I come up 3 times in the first page of MS Search. In google I'm not even on the first 2 pages. Roll on the full launch!


 11:53 am on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I just have one thing to say.

If that's the future algo, we'll spamm the living lights out of you with x-linking


 12:33 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

If I search on my name (with quotes) in the new MSN search the top listing is a site that I sold 6 months ago... funny thing is that this site never had my name on it, even before it was sold... Hmmmm.


 1:00 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

The results seem to be very country specific.

And as a result, I find beta.search.msn.com much more receptable to search engine spam than the .co.uk or other specific country domains.

Some searches that only show garbage on the .com site actually have quite relevant quality results on other domains.

That said, I will most certainly stay out of the .de domain. At least for the keywords I'm after.


 1:51 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Not at all impressed with the search results. Did a city specific query and got irrelevant results.


 2:25 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

If that's the future algo

I very much doubt it - that's the point of BETA. I honestly think we'll see an improvement as they tweak and then re-tweak the working model.

M$ are not so silly they'd put anything live if ridicule or failure was the first word that came out of every journalists pen....

The link networks and doorway pages I think will be reduced as this process happens - so I for one will not be touching anything on my pages until I know what I am playing with.

Wolf in sheep's clothing is a phrase that springs to mind....


 3:10 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Not at all impressed with the search results. Did a city specific query and got irrelevant results.

A search for our country keyword gave very poor results We are currently in sixth place in Google (out of 128 million), and have the best Alexa ranking in our category (no spam ranking of less than 10,000). We are not even in the top 90 results on MSN. there is no spam in our category, so the results are just bad.

Instead, at No 1 there is an unknown, new, poorly trafficked site in the top position (a forum with 67 reg. users (we have 20,000!)) and the first three SERPS appear to only have basic sorting.

I think the sliders are useless because most normal users wont use them.

It's still early days though so I am sure it will get better...


 3:39 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I very much doubt it - that's the point of BETA. I honestly think we'll see an improvement as they tweak and then re-tweak the working model.

M$ are not so silly they'd put anything live if ridicule or failure was the first word that came out of every journalists pen....

This may be standard Microsoft procedure. Get a buggy version 1 out there ASAP and then spend the next three years fixing it.


 4:11 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

My comments are this...

First off the serps look great in the categories we monitor. Not alot of crap template spammy sites, certainly no more than Google or Yahoo. So in my opionion its not the quality of the serps thats holding them back at this point. It would appear to be more of a technical nature, ie. getting it to work consistantly across all browsers, and other technical issues that need to be sorted.

I would like to point out that I am annoyed that the press and Microsoft has called this a "launch". I don't know about the rest of you, but my definition of launch is not putting an updated version of the techpreview up on a differnt URL. Launch to me means it would be integrated into the MSN search, LIVE, or at least have a way for normal users to get to it. Currently the only way to look at the beta is to know the url. So I suspect again it will only be us webmasters looking at it instead of normal users. Right now all the people that have read the press releases are thinking, great lets check out MSN and will instead be looking at Yahoo results. Doesn't make sense to me.

Anyways rock on MSN. I can't wait for this to actually go live and for there to be some competition to Google and Yahoo finally. :-)


 4:16 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm amazed anyone would say these serps look great. They are definitely improving, and they look great for my wallet, but I wouldn't use what they currently have running to try to find something.


 4:23 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

They are definitely improving, and they look great for my wallet, but I wouldn't use what they currently have running to try to find something.

Bingo. Judging from the replies in this thread and what I've seen you are spot on. It looks like most of these replies could change "these SERPs are great" with "we rank high in these SERPs".

I'm in the same boat, we rank much higher in the SERPs with MSN Beta. However, there's a reason some sites rank higher than us on Google, they SHOULD rank higher than us.


 4:43 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

For everyone that's complaining about "junk serps"... How long has it taken Google to get where they're at? And Google is still not perfect.

You have to be realistic, and patient. You can't honestly expect the SE of your dreams pop up this quickly. It's called BETA for a reason, and I'm sure things will be better in the future.


 4:50 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Obviously they have a lot to learn about search... If the finished product is anything like the current results I don't see them as a serious competitor to Google.


 4:58 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Interesting search results. We've been on MSN a long time. Many of our old pages shot up in rank from oblivion to number 3 or 4. Our newer pages (put up in the past year) are nowhere to be seen. Also, we did better on very specific search phrases as compared to more generalized searches (i.e. metal wigits, vs wigits).

On the other hand, we previously had a page rank of 5 on a very important generalized search phrase and dropped to 40 something on the new beta test. Not so good.

It seems to me the new MSN search is using actual text or page content more than page relevance. But I may be prejudiced because I'm an on-line merchant, not an educational site. . . .


 4:59 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

However, there's a reason some sites rank higher than us on Google, they SHOULD rank higher than us.

What is it they're doing that you're not able to?


 5:03 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I don't see them as a serious competitor to Google

But is that the whole point - they are hardly going to put out a 95% completed product for us lot to look at (and more importantly Google and Yahoo) and crack for SEO so we make a load more money (although that would be nice ;) )

I agree there is some way to go - but they are surely holding some back so that when 100% ready they can go live with a search engine that befits the name.

BTW - MSN - why not buy searching.com? It's for sale I think (and no it's not mine)

travelin cat

 5:11 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I have seen many mentions of "sliders" yet I can see nothing like this. Is it because I'm on a Mac using Safari? If so, will I be able to see them using a different browser, say Firefox, or do I need a PC?



 5:17 pm on Nov 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I am also on a Mac using Safari and I can see the sliders. Have you turned java on?

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